While pictures of clouds embracing our tall towers may seem like something from a dream, the truth is that fog presents a very real danger around this time every year. At airports, departures are often delayed or cancelled and arrivals are rerouted; on the motorway, drivers who struggle to see in front of them crash into other cars. Sometimes it gets so bad that there are multi-car pile-ups – including one on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road last month that involved 69 vehicles. And then there was “fog Tuesday” – March 11, 2008 – when more than 200 vehicles were piled up near Ghantoot, leading to four deaths, 350 injuries and fires in 20 cars. There was another fog-related fatality in October last year.
The cost – in terms of damaged vehicles, traffic delays and, especially, human life – is clearly far too high, so it is no wonder that the authorities are anxious to find a solution. There has been some experimentation with fog-dispersal drones that could clear airport runways or roads, but that technology has not yet been perfected. A more immediate and practical solution would seem to be the compulsory installation of fog lights on all vehicles.
Dino Kalivas, chairman of driver education and training at the International Road Federation, said such an initiative could save lives. He told The National that increasing visibility between vehicles reduces crash risk by more than 30 per cent. Other experts agree, although they point to difficulties in making fog lights compulsory, including whether both front and rear lights are necessary, and whether some car owners would resist them on the grounds of aesthetics – the way they change the appearance of their vehicle – and cost.
The big question, however, is whether drivers would use them properly. In a country where many people fail to use their indicators and tailgate by habit, it may difficult to communicate the proper use of fog lights. The bottom line, as always, is that the UAE’s unacceptably high road toll can only be reduced if people drive carefully – and that applies equally in clear weather and fog.